There are two Brown alums on the new season of Survivor…

Last Wednesday, Survivor premiered its 30th season, and while I thought my friends and I were the only ones watching, it actually drew a really big crowd (10.04 million people, to be exact).

Upon further research, it turns out that Brown is the leader in Ivy League Survivor contestant. [Ed’s note. Is this something to be proud or ashamed of?] A resounding four people having competed in the show, although none have won so far.


Suck it, Princeton!

Two of this season’s contestants are alumni from Brown, both representing the “White Collar” tribe–Max Dawson ’99 and Shirin Oskooi ’05. Coincidentally–or maybe not–they were named by host Jeff Probst as the two players from the White Collar tribe to watch. In the first episode, they formed an alliance, and SPOILER ALERT: voted out another White Collar tribe member. Both of these Brown alums have great chances of winning the show. Get to know them a little bit better after the jump.

Meet the Contestants:

Max Dawson, Ph.D.


A graduate of Brown in 1999, Dawson majored in MCM, and went on to receive his Ph.D. at Northwestern in Radio, TV and Film. But beyond his academic credentials, what separates Max from the other contestants on the show is his absurdly deep knowledge of Survivor.

According to Max’s public LinkedIn profile, he currently works in Los Angeles as a media consultant, but in the past, he taught a class on Survivor at Northwestern where he split his class into two tribes and made them compete in group quizzes, immunity challenges, and even buried an immunity idol on campus for his students to find.

Probst said of Max: “He’s a great interview. He has a very good sense of the history of Survivor so he’s a guy that can tell you, ‘Listen, if you look at the number of people that stood up and offered to be a leader, 70 percent of them were voted out in the first three episodes.’ So he has that encyclopedia of knowledge to draw on. And I really like having him on the show.”

Indeed, when presented with the opportunity to be a leader on the first episode, Max decided to take a backseat and let Joaquin, another White Collar, take flack for his leadership decisions.

Shirin Oskooi


Shirin is a more recent graduate of Brown, concentrating in Computer Science and Creative Writing. She completed her degree in 2005. She TA’ed CS15 and 16, and was the head TA for CS31–no small endeavor.

Out of college, she worked for Google for four years, where she was basically in charge of Google Calendar, and now works as an exec at Yahoo. Further adding to her legend, she lists under her hobbies, “Competitive Whistling.” But one answer sets her apart from the others:

Q—If You Could Have 3 Things on The Island What Would They Be and Why?

A—1. A goat (or a muffin) 2. Whiskey 3. Beyoncé

Three great choices, and we can only assume by muffin she meant a chocolate chip Blue Room muffin.

Probst said of Shirin: “Big career and another super fan. SUPER fan—underlined. She knows the game. And it comes into play…She tells certain people at certain times, ‘This is what we should do because this is what is going to happen.’ And we’ve never had anyone quite like that before.”

In the first episode, Shirin actually messed up the puzzle challenge a bit, allowing the Blue Collar tribe to defeat them, but her masterful relationship skills saved her in the end.

What’s coming this season:


Both alumni are very smart and huge fans of the game, so hopefully they do very well. They are also used to subsisting on low-quality food (the Ratty), sleeping in uncomfortable places (what’s up twin XLs?) and, of course, going to the bathroom in places that barely resemble bathrooms (Sayles bathroom). These Brown experiences will serve them well in the wild.

The scenes from next episode featured both Max and Shirin skinny-dipping with their tribe. Ah, the Brunonian bond.

A previous version of this post used an infographic with incomplete information. It has been updated to include So Kim, Liz Kim, and Linda Spencer as recipients of Ivy League bachelor degrees.

Images via, via, via, via, via, and via Jokichi Matsubara.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Beasley

    Who are Linda and Liz that you say are in Survivor Season 30? They are listed in the table at the start of the article.

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